TechCrunch has covered Acceleprise several times over the years, including a look at its mid-2020 accelerator startup batch from its three accelerators. The firm has long focused on business-to-business SaaS startups, helping them get their start in a competitive global software market.
As of today, Acceleprise is now Forum Ventures, according to the group's CEO and managing partner, Michael Cardamone, and it has a bushel of funds to power its work. And befitting its new name, the company is now more than merely a collection of software-focused accelerators.
In addition to a new, larger $17 million fund for its pre-seed work, Forum Ventures has also raised its first seed fund. The new seed vehicle totals $13.2 billion, with Cardamone telling TechCrunch that the group intends to write checks ranging from $100,000 to $650,000 into rounds valued between $1 million and $4 million. It's an actual seed fund, in other words.
While it's interesting that Forum has put together a seed fund that will invest both in its accelerator graduates and other SaaS companies, the firm's new pre-seed investing vehicle is noticeably larger than its preceding accelerator fund. Why is it so much bigger? Per Cardamone, the group added a third accelerator since its last fund, helping explain the size shift.
The technology market is also simply more expensive in every way than it was, and Forum has expanded its staff, so more capital under management makes sense.
There is synergy between the pre-seed and seed funds, of course. Forum can now better defend early ownership in standout companies from its accelerator batches. But why keep the door open to investing in other startups that it didn't help incubate? It comes back to the company's new name, it turns out. Cardamone and the team chose Forum Ventures because of the work it has done to build a SaaS community that from time to time spins up companies that didn't go through Forum's programs, he said, and it wants to invest in some of them.
Undergirding Forum's new raise are results from its earlier funds. Its first accelerator fund, deployed from the end of 2014 through the next two years, has returned "86% of committed capital to date and the rest of the fund is marked at 3.36X and growing with 18 companies still live at various stages," the firm shared in an email.
Funds 2 and 3 are a bit nascent yet to have similarly concrete returns; we'll have to wait a bit to see how they perform.
But TechCrunch did want to know, regardless, what impact COVID-19 had on Forum and its various funds and batches. Did they catch a COVID-induced wave? We wondered if some good recent results may have helped the firm raise not only larger funds, but two of them at the same time.
According to Cardamone, the answer is somewhat. In its most recent pre-seed fund, the CEO said that its accelerator cohorts are seeing more startups raise faster seed and Series A rounds. And, as TechCrunch has written lately, they are, at times, raising Series A deals at lower ARR thresholds than we might have expected. So, it's a good time to be putting pre-seed dollars to work, we reckon, provided that you have the deal flow.
Forum is now 11 people, including six women and one nonbinary individual. That's about as diverse in gender terms as we've seen in the SaaS venture capital world. From its new seed fund, 53% of Forum's investments have had a woman or otherwise underrepresented founder. Not bad.
Now let's see if Forum can replicate its early accelerator returns with more capital, more financial vehicles and more people.